Upton Castle, situated in a secluded spot two miles north east of Cosheston village, is one of Pembrokeshire’s lesser-known castles, but is nevertheless of great interest.
The home of the Malefant and Bowen families, it was built in the latter part of the 13th century and, despite many alterations and additions over the centuries, still retains much of its original fabric.
According to architectural experts, it probably started life as a medium-sized fortified first-floor hall house, as there is no evidence of secondary means of defence. But the three stout semi-circular drum towers on the north side give it the appearance of a castle.
The Malefant family occupied it for two centuries before it descended to the Bowens and the rectangular, castellated residential block resembles a miniature Picton Castle. Surprisingly, in 1670, when Hugh Bowen was in residence, it was assessed in the Hearth Tax List for six hearths - the same number as the much larger Carew Castle.
The family history is interesting, according to the noted antiquarian Major Francis Jones, as there is a Royal connection on the wrong side of the blanket. Sir William Malefant, who is mentioned in the records of 1247 and 1255, was killed in a skirmish at Cardigan in 1258, leaving his wife Avice, daughter of Sir Thomas de la Roche, and a son also named Walter. He married Joan, daughter of Henry fitzHenry, an illegitimate son of Henry 1st by the Princess Nest, daughter of Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr. And it is to his son, also Walter, that the building of the castle is attributed. The castle passed down through the Malefant line until the last male, Stephen Malefant, who married Alice Perrot, died, leaving the property to his only daughter Alice. Thus began the Bowen line, for Alice married a member of one of the most illustrious Welsh nobility families, Owen ap Gruffydd of Dynefwr. Owen’s elder brother, Thomas ap Gruffydd, was the father of the distinguished Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who joined Henry Tudor at Dale on his march to Bosworth and victory over Richard 111 in 1485. Owen, through his marriage to Alice Malefant, had a son Morris ab Owen and the name ab Owen eventually changed to Bowen. When the last of the line, Morris Bowen, died in 1758 he had no male heir, but four daughters, and Upton passed to the youngest, Martha, who had married Willam Tayleur of Shropshire, who in 1787 was described as the owner of the castle. The antiquarian Richard Fenton, during his itinerary through Pembrokeshire, which he chronicled in his book of that name in 1811, visited Upton Castle where the owner was the Revd William Evans. He wrote: “There is but little of the castle remaining besides the entrance between two bastions finely overgrown with ivy.”
The castle then passed through two generations of the Evans family before the last, Admiral Richard Evans, died in 1927, having sold it to a Mr Stanley Neale of Cardiff.